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A quiet village

Serene and deserted.

by Kimberley Cummins

Where are the customers?

With roughly 6,000 passengers on board the four cruise ships berthed at the Bridgetown Port this morning, in addition to the more than 7,000 people who arrived on three others yesterday, this was still the question resounding among many tenants of the Pelican Craft Village.

Of the more than 40 kiosks in the village a mere 14 were opened for business, and some of those questioned why they decided to open shop at all.

Veteran artist Onkphra Wells of Bajan Art Forms was one of those people. In an interview with Barbados TODAY at the Bridgetown craft centre, he said he would not be able to continue his business there unless a different strategy was implemented going forward this new year. He called for bold initiatives, such as marketing the village as an arts and culture centre, to be taken to breathe life into the establishment.

“I already have my plans drawn up, and next week I will be calling for a meeting for them to tell me yes or no because it is just too dread. You are piling up debt and rent and it is just not feasible…; business is zero,” Wells said.

“If you want people to come in here you must have a marketing strategy. Right now it is like the marketing strategy is non-existent or not working. There are sufficient people on the cruise ships that we should be able to get some inside of here, but they not coming. They are walking on the other side going up.

“We do what we can but we can’t draw water out of a rock …, so we have to reach that common understanding and then allow the artists to do what they have to do providing that they are still within the overall guidelines of the BIDC’s [Barbados Investment Development Corporation] vision for Pelican Village — that is the only way I can see this thing working.

“The artists have to be given some leeway to exercise bold initiatives in terms of innovation in marketing, in reconstructing their spaces, reconstructing Pelican Village and promote it not only for art but as an art and culture event. Where you have music, entertainment, food — it needs activities.”

He added: “We need to turn [Pelican] into a culture village instead of just art so you would have live performances, theatre, music, more food more entertainment, that kind of live demonstration. Down on the other side of Pelican Village is more like an amphitheatre, it is under-utilised in terms of that creativity to draw people into here.

“Once a month we should have some type of festival, something happening in here. These are things that we have been thinking about for a while.”

Another tenant, who declined to give his name, acknowledged that the Small Business Association and BIDC may have made an effort to bring traffic to the village by hosting Dooflickys. However, he said he believed their marketing efforts were not concentrated enough and as a result there was a significant problem because many tenants were unable to pay their rent.

“The BIDC wants to collect the rent, the tenants want to pay the rent…, but we are all in a position where we owe a lot of rent and the reasons are absolutely obvious — there is no traffic, … there are no sales. If you go from the top to the bottom I can guarantee who is able to pay their rent they are doing so by subsidising from something else that they do. There is hardly any activity, no buying of products.

“Products are there, products are good, the tenants are willing, the problem is attracting the buyers and if you don’t have the buyers then you don’t have the income to pay the rent,” he added.

Owner of Rosyln of Barbados, Roslyn Watson, who has been a tenant for 12 years also gave her input. She was optimistic that things would improve though customers were scarce at the present time.

She revealed that ” yesterday was not bad” when compared to some days last year, but added that the numbers were not comparable to what they could be if signs to show that Pelican was there and opened for business were erected. Watson, as well as other tenants, said that was one of the main issues because people disembarking the ships walked on the Trevor’s Way side of the street, not even realising that the village was there.†††

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